Sports

Tuchel, Conte start latest installment of the Battle at the Bridge

LONDON — Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur signaled their intent to be London’s best in the 2022-23 Premier League season, but neither was able to pick up a full three points from Stamford Bridge on Sunday, settling for a 2-2 draw. Goals from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Harry Kane erased Blues’ leads earned by Kalidou Koulibaly and Reece James, and managers Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel had to be separated on more than one occasion as the first big London derby of the season unfolded in dramatic fashion.

– Report: Late Kane goal rescues Spurs draw at Chelsea | Premier League table | Upcoming fixtures

ESPN’s James Olley has the reaction to the tense 2-2 tie.

JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Post-match quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures


Rapid Reaction

A new Battle of the Bridge

Maybe the heat got to them. Disagreements over refereeing decisions and some exuberant goal celebrations certainly did. But whatever the root cause, Tuchel and Conte — who had only nice things to say about each other beforehand — sparked a rivalry here that feels every bit as ferocious as some of the all-time Premier League greats, twice having to be separated, once after Tottenham’s first equaliser (when booked) and again at full time (when they were both sent off).

At times it resembled the infamous “Battle of the Bridge” in May 2016, when Chelsea’s win over their London rivals eliminated Spurs’ hopes of winning the 2015-16 title, although on that occasion no fewer than nine Spurs players were booked and this time the leading protagonists were the two managers.

Perhaps Conte was trying to lead from the front in helping Spurs close what he described in January as a “very large” gap between Tottenham and the top sides, including Chelsea. They were nowhere near their best but stayed in the game to snatch a point courtesy of Kane’s 96th-minute header. What threatened to be a chastening afternoon now could be a stepping stone to closing that gap. Either way, the Tuchel-Conte dynamic has changed forever.

Kante excels… but suffers another injury blow

It was around 95 degrees at kick-off — a near-nationwide heat wave forcing the introduction of drinks breaks this weekend — yet you would not have known it looking at N’Golo Kante. After Spurs made a promising start, the 31-year-old France midfielder helped Chelsea take control of this game by stifling Spurs, pinning them back in their own half for extended periods. However, Kante went off five minutes from the end with what looked like a hamstring injury, the latest setback for a player blighted by a plethora of problems including knee and muscular issues as well as contracting COVID-19.

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He remains absolutely essential to Chelsea delivering their best collective performances in big matches. Furthermore, there might be a notable knock-on effect for Conor Gallagher, who has been linked with a move away from the club as Crystal Palace, where he thrived on loan last season, lead a long list of suitors. Tuchel will be far less inclined to allow Gallagher to leave if Kante is ruled out for any significant length of time.

Tuchel’s signings deliver, but more are needed

Marc Cucurella capped a good individual display with the corner for Koulibaly to open the scoring with a fine volley, albeit one Spurs gave him the freedom of West London to perform. Both were making their home Premier League debuts and they looked at home in a hostile, high-quality occasion such as this.

Tuchel has been given a greater influence over transfers under the new Todd-Boehly/Clearlake-led ownership and his judgment was vindicated in one sense by the dynamic performances of Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling and Kai Havertz. The three alternated positions in attack and pressed the ball superbly — neither would have been possible with Romelu Lukaku still at the club. However, the need for a clinical forward remained clear: Sterling blazed over when well-placed just after the hour mark before Havertz missed a glorious chance moments before James put Chelsea 2-1 up.

Tuchel is keen on signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Barcelona, and it was easy to see why here.


Player ratings

Chelsea: Edouard Mendy 6, Reece James 8, Kalidou Koulibaly 7, Thiago Silva 7, Ruben Loftus-Cheek 6, N’Golo Kante 8, Jorginho 7, Marc Cucurella 7; Mason Mount 7, Kai Havertz 6, Raheem Sterling 7.
Subs: Cesar Azpilicueta 6, Conor Gallagher 6, Christian Pulisic 6, Armando Broja 6.

Tottenham: Hugo Lloris 6, Cristian Romero 7, Eric Dier 7, Ben Davies 6; Emerson Royal 6, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg 7, Rodrigo Bentancur 6, Ryan Sessegnon 5; Dejan Kulusevski 5, Harry Kane 6, Son Heung-Min 6.
Subs: Richarlison 6, Yves Bissouma 6, Ivan Perisic 6, Lucas Moura 6.


Best and worst performers

BEST: Reece James, Chelsea

Did a fine job keeping Son quiet and scored Chelsea’s second goal with the sort of attack-minded wing-back play that makes him so vital to Tuchel’s favoured 3-4-3 system.

WORST: Dejan Kulusevski, Tottenham

He has been a revelation since signing from Juventus in January, but he was unable to get into the game at all and struggled to stem Chelsea’s left flank.


Highlights and notable moments

Every moment of this game was a highlight, but the intensity, the instant-classic nature of this quintessentially Chelsea-Spurs match became most apparent on Tottenham’s first equaliser, when Conte celebrated on the edge of Tuchel’s area in front of the Blues’ bench.

Nine minutes later, Chelsea had the lead again, and Tuchel revelled in the moment, celebrating by running up and down the touchline.

The fireworks didn’t end just because the full-time whistle blew. Conte and Tuchel ensured those embers continued to burn, hopefully until the sides meet again on Feb. 25.


After the match: What the players and coaches said

“I think it’s not so important. The most important thing is football. It was intensive.” – Conte on his altercation with Tuchel after the full-time whistle.

“When you shake hands, you look into each others eyes. Antonio had a different opinion.” – Tuchel on what started his altercation with Conte.


Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)


Up next

Chelsea: The Blues will next be in action on Sunday, Aug. 21 at Elland Road, when Tuchel & Co. take on Jesse Marsch‘s Leeds United. Six days later, on Aug. 27, Chelsea return to Stamford Bridge to welcome Leicester City to London.

Tottenham: Spurs host Wolverhampton Wanderers at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 20, before traveling to City ground for a date with Nottingham Forest on Sunday, Aug. 28.



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